The Fetters of Fame and Gain
By Jieli, China
Almighty God says, “Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain. Looking now at Satan’s actions, are its sinister motives not utterly detestable? Maybe today you still cannot see through Satan’s sinister motives because you think one cannot live without fame and gain. You think that if people leave fame and gain behind, they will no longer be able to see the way ahead, no longer be able to see their goals, that their futures will become dark, dim and gloomy. But, slowly, you will all one day recognize that fame and gain are monstrous shackles that Satan uses to bind man. When that day comes, you will thoroughly resist Satan’s control and thoroughly resist the shackles Satan uses to bind you. When the time comes that you wish to throw off all the things Satan has instilled in you, you will then make a clean break with Satan and you will truly loathe all that Satan has brought to you. Only then will mankind have a real love and yearning for God” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I’d like to share some of my own experience and understanding related to God’s words.
In 2015, I was chosen to be a church leader in the annual elections. I was really excited, thinking that being elected as a leader out of dozens of brothers and sisters must mean that I was better than the others. In my duty from then on, brothers and sisters would come to me for fellowship when they had difficulties with life entry, and team leaders would discuss issues they encountered in the church’s work with me. I couldn’t help but have this feeling of superiority. I walked around arrogantly, with my chest puffed out, and I was bursting with confidence when fellowshiping in gatherings. After a while, I noticed that Sister Liu, a co-worker, was of good caliber, her fellowship on the truth was very clear, and she could grasp the root of people’s problems to resolve them. She also pointed out paths of practice, and everyone wanted to hear her fellowship. I both admired and envied her. But I didn’t want to be outdone, so I carefully prepared before every gathering, racking my brains to think of how to fellowship more comprehensively and with more light so I’d appear better than her. When I saw brothers and sisters nodding in agreement when I was finished with fellowship, I’d feel very pleased with myself and had a sense of accomplishment. Later on, I discovered that my co-worker Brother Zheng had quite a bit of professional knowledge on movies and that he was good with computers. Brothers and sisters doing filming duty would often discuss related matters with him, and as a church leader I just didn’t have anything to add. I felt like a fifth wheel, and that left me really disgruntled. I thought that by seeking out Brother Zheng whenever they had a problem they must think I didn’t match up to him. I figured it would be great if I knew something about movies, too, then the brothers and sisters would discuss their issues with me. I started getting up early and staying up late to research and learn about how to make movies so I could know more. I totally disregarded all the issues in the church as well as brothers’ and sisters’ states. After a little while, problems started appearing in the work of several teams that I just couldn’t resolve no matter how I fellowshiped or held gatherings. Since brothers’ and sisters’ states hadn’t been resolved, film production progress was hindered and one problem after another was cropping up. I was under so much pressure I could hardly breathe. I felt tormented. I worried about what the others would think of me, if they’d think I was totally lacking capability as a leader and I wasn’t qualified to do that duty. It looked like I wouldn’t be able to hold on to my position as a leader. I became more negative as I thought about it. I felt like a deflated balloon and didn’t have the energy I had before. Living in negativity and slacking off in my duty, I eventually lost the work of the Holy Spirit. Since I wasn’t achieving anything in my duty, I was replaced. At that moment I felt like I’d totally lost face and I wanted the earth to swallow me up. I was also wondering, “Will the brothers and sisters say I was a false leader who didn’t do practical work?” I got more upset the more I dwelled on it.
I lay in bed tossing and turning that night, unable to sleep. I called out to God in prayer time after time, asking Him to guide me to know my own state. I then read these words of God: “In your seeking, you have too many individual notions, hopes, and futures. The current work is in order to deal with your desire for status and your extravagant desires. Hopes, status, and notions are all classic representations of satanic disposition. The reason that these things exist in people’s hearts is entirely because Satan’s poison is always corroding people’s thoughts, and always people are unable to shake off these temptations of Satan. They are living in the midst of sin yet do not believe it to be sin, and still they think: ‘We believe in God, so He must bestow blessings on us and arrange everything for us appropriately. We believe in God, so we must be superior to others, and we must have more status and more of a future than anyone else. Since we believe in God, He must give us limitless blessings. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called believing in God.’ … The more you seek in this way, the less you will reap. The greater a person’s desire for status, the more seriously they will have to be dealt with and the more they will have to undergo great refinement. Such people are worthless! They must be dealt with and judged adequately in order for them to thoroughly let go of these things. If you pursue this way until the end, you will reap nothing. Those who do not pursue life cannot be transformed, and those who do not thirst for the truth cannot gain the truth. You do not focus on pursuing personal transformation and entry, but focus instead on extravagant desires and things that constrain your love for God and prevent you from drawing close to Him. Can those things transform you? Can they bring you into the kingdom?” (“Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I reflected on my recent state after reading this. Since taking on the duty of a leader I’d been doing nothing but pursuing name and status and wanting to be above others. When I saw Sister Liu’s fellowship on the truth was better than mine, I was afraid she’d outdo me. I thought about how to fellowship better than her so that the others would admire and praise me. When I saw Brother Zheng had professional skills and lots of brothers and sisters talked to him about issues in their duties, I became jealous and rejected him. I worked hard to equip myself with knowledge to get ahead of him, and even ignored problems within teams. When I couldn’t resolve brothers’ and sisters’ issues, I didn’t lean on God, or seek the truth with brothers and sisters to find solutions through fellowship. I was just obsessed with gaining and losing status, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to hold on to my position as a leader if I didn’t do my duty well. Then I finally realized I wasn’t doing my duty out of consideration of God’s will at all, but to satisfy my wild ambition to be better than others, to lord over others. Brothers and sisters put their trust in me and elected me as a church leader, but I didn’t consider the church’s work or their life entry at all. I wasn’t really shouldering my duty or being responsible, and this ended up harming the church’s work. I was so selfish and despicable. I wasn’t doing my duty—I was doing evil and resisting God! I regretted not being on the right path in my faith, but always fighting for name and gain, disgusting God. Being dismissed from my duty was God’s righteous judgment and chastisement. He wasn’t eliminating me, but had me replaced so I would reflect on my behavior. That was God protecting and saving me! My state gradually improved through a period of devotionals and reflection, so the church leader arranged for me to take on routine duties. I was really grateful to God for giving me that chance, and I quietly resolved that I would certainly treasure that duty, and stop pursuing name and status on a path in opposition to God.
After that experience I thought I could let go of my desire for name and status a bit, but I was too deeply corrupted by Satan. That kind of satanic disposition can’t be resolved with just a little understanding and reflection, so God once again set up a situation to expose me and save me.
One day a few months later, the church leader told us to select a team leader. As soon as I heard this I started weighing it up: “Will I have a shot at being elected as team leader? I’m a pretty capable worker, but I don’t have any professional skills, so my chances probably aren’t that great.” Then I considered a few other brothers and sisters in the team. Brother Zhang excelled with professional skills and his fellowship on the truth was practical, plus he had a sense of justice and he was able to uphold the church’s work. Overall, it looked like he was more likely to be chosen. I thought about how I used to delegate work to Brother Zhang when I was a church leader, but if he were elected as the team leader, he’d be telling me what to do. Wouldn’t that make me look inferior to him? This thought made me really uncomfortable. When the election day came, I couldn’t help but get nervous, and an inner battle commenced: “Who should I vote for? Should I vote for Brother Zhang?” I thought about how most brothers and sisters discussed any difficulties in their duties with him, and people in other teams also discussed their work with him all the time—it made him look so good. If he became team leader, wouldn’t he be on a higher rung than me? At that, I didn’t want to vote for him anymore, but I lacked professional knowledge and I wasn’t qualified to be that team’s leader. I felt really dejected and aggrieved, and hated that I didn’t know more about the work. Just then, a terrible thought popped into my mind: “If I can’t be the team leader, I’ll make sure you can’t either.” And so, I voted for Brother Wu, who didn’t have as much professional knowledge. To my surprise, Brother Zhang was still the one voted in. I wasn’t pleased to see things turn out that way, but I immediately had an uneasy feeling, like I’d done something shameful. I later read these words of God: “If they see someone better than they are, they suppress them, start a rumor about them, or employ some unscrupulous means so that other people don’t look highly upon them, and that no one is any better than anyone else, then this is the corrupt disposition of arrogance and self-rightness, as well as crookedness, deceitfulness and insidiousness, and these people stop at nothing to achieve their aims. They live like this and yet still think they’re great and that they’re good people. However, do they have God-fearing hearts? First of all, to speak from the perspective of the natures of these matters, are not people who act this way simply doing as they please? Do they consider the interests of God’s family? They think only of their own feelings and they want only to achieve their own aims, regardless of the loss suffered by the work of God’s family. Not only are people like this arrogant and self-right, they are also selfish and contemptible; they are utterly inconsiderate of God’s intention, and people like this, without a shadow of a doubt, do not possess God-fearing hearts. This is why they do whatever they want and act wantonly, without any sense of blame, without any trepidation, without any apprehension or worry, and without considering the consequences. They do not fear God, they believe themselves to be of utmost importance, and they regard every aspect of themselves as being higher than God and higher than the truth. In their hearts, God is the least worthy of mention and the most insignificant, and God does not have any status in their hearts at all. Have those who have no place for God in their hearts, and who do not revere God, attained entry into the truth? (No.) So, when they typically go around merrily keeping themselves busy and exerting quite a lot of energy, what are they doing? Such people even claim to have abandoned everything to expend for God and suffered a great deal, but actually, the motive, principle, and objective of all their actions are to benefit themselves; they are only trying to protect all of their own interests. Would you or would you not say that this sort of person is terrible? What sort of person, would you say, is one who does not revere God? Is he or she arrogant? Is such a person Satan? What kinds of things do not revere God? Apart from the animals, all those that do not revere God include demons, Satan, the archangel, and those who contend with God” (“The Five Conditions People Have Before They Enter the Right Track of Believing in God” in Records of Christ’s Talks). I felt gutted when I read this. Thinking back on my thoughts and deeds during the selection process, I felt like I couldn’t show my face. I’d voted according to my personal motives, to protect my position and prestige, without accepting God’s scrutiny and without any reverence for God at all. I knew Brother Zhang was skilled, his fellowship on the truth was practical, and him becoming the team leader would benefit everyone’s life entry and the church’s work. But I was jealous, afraid that he’d be above me as team leader, so I intentionally didn’t vote for him. I had gone by the great red dragon’s principle of “If autocracy fails, make sure democracy can’t succeed.” The great red dragon’s M.O. is that if it can’t be in power, then no one else can, either. If necessary, it will use a bitter struggle to destroy both sides. Wasn’t I just the same? If I couldn’t get the position, I didn’t want Brother Zhang to get it, either. I’d rather see the wrong person fill the role and the church’s work damaged to protect my own prestige and status. I was so selfish, despicable, crafty, and vicious, without the slightest reverence for God. I’d enjoyed so many truths expressed by God, and having that opportunity to do my duty was God showing me kindness. But instead of thinking how to repay God’s love, I was jealous and strove for name and gain. I was serving as Satan’s minion, disrupting the work of God’s house. Wasn’t I a double-crossing degenerate? I thought about how I’d been dismissed from my duty a year before because I was fighting for name and gain, not doing my duty properly, and couldn’t do practical work. And now, I was in the same kind of situation but I was still pursuing name and status, not the truth. If I carried on that way, I’d be spurned and eliminated by God.
Later on, I read these words from God: “You do not know your place, yet still you battle with each other in the dung. What can you gain from such struggle? If you truly had reverence for Me in your hearts, how could you fight with each other behind My back? No matter how high your status, are you not still a stinking little worm in the dung? Will you be able to sprout wings and become a dove in the sky?” (“When Falling Leaves Return to Their Roots, You Will Regret All the Evil You Have Done” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Why does God call people ‘maggots’? In God’s eyes, this corrupt mankind is clearly a creature of God—but does this creature fulfill the responsibilities and duties that it ought to? What is manifested in people’s performance of their duty? … Nothing they think about all day has anything to do with the truth or following the way of God. They spend all day stuffing their faces, giving no thought to anything. In rare instances, it may occur to them to do something—but their actions interrupt and meddle, and raise themselves upon high, and they never do anything that passes muster with God or people. Their minds are full of how to seek what’s good for the flesh, how to secure status and renown, how to fit in among certain groups of people, and have standing and a good reputation. They eat the food of the house of God, and enjoy everything that God provides, but do not do human things. Could God like such people?” (“Six Indicators of Progress in Life” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
As I pondered God’s words, I felt terribly distressed. I realized that God regarded my satanic disposition of fighting for name and gain as so filthy and vile. Having the good fortune to do my duty in God’s house was God’s exceptional exaltation, but I was not fulfilling my obligations. Instead, I only ever thought about my own name and status, and even disrupted the work of God’s house for those things. I was playing the part of Satan. That was so disgusting and hateful to God! God says, “No matter how high your status, are you not still a stinking little worm in the dung?” That’s just it. I’m a created being, a filthy, corrupt person with no worth or dignity to speak of, so even if I did get a position, it couldn’t change what I am. I couldn’t even do my duty well, but constantly vied for name and gain, wanted others to look up to me. Where was my conscience and reason? What value did my life have? Wasn’t I an utterly worthless worm? After gaining some understanding of my nature and essence from what God’s words revealed, I hated myself and became willing to forsake the flesh and practice the truth.
I later went to seek out Brother Zhang and opened up about my corruption, revealing my despicable motives and actions in the election. Not only did he not look down on me, but he shared fellowship on his own experience to help me. After fellowshiping, the wall between us disappeared and I felt really free and at ease. In my duty from then on, whenever I had a difficulty or didn’t understand an issue, I went to Brother Zhang in seeking, and he always patiently answered my questions through fellowship. My own professional skills improved after a while. When I let go of name and status and practiced the truth, I experienced the ease and peace that comes from doing my duty that way, and I grew closer to God. I once again escaped the fetters of name and status through that situation and got a taste of God’s practical salvation for me.
The church’s annual election kicked off in October 2017, and I was recommended as a candidate by the brothers and sisters. I felt a little emotionally unsteady, thinking, “It’s been over two years since I was removed from my leadership position, and I’ve heard that some brothers and sisters have a good opinion of me. They say my fellowship has become more practical and I’ve undergone some changes. I wonder if I can get a leadership position this time.” I realized I was pursuing reputation and status again and thought about how painful it was before when I was shackled and constrained by those things. I knew I couldn’t keep that pursuit up, that I should forsake the flesh and practice the truth. I then thought of this passage of God’s words: “In the day when you become free and liberated, you will feel that the things you have forsaken are entanglements, and the things you have truly obtained are most precious to you. You will feel that those are the most valuable things and most worthy of your treasuring. Those things you liked—material pleasures, fame and fortune, status, money, face, and the honor of others—will seem worthless to you. Those things caused you great suffering, and you will want them no more” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). My heart brightened, and I knew that pursuing name and status had no value, and that understanding and practicing the truth and doing the duty of a created being are the most precious things. In fact, participating in the election wasn’t to fight for a leadership position, but it was to fulfill my responsibilities by taking part in the process. I had to let go of my wild desires for name and status and vote for a suitable leader according to the principles of the truth. That’s what would be beneficial for the work of God’s house. If I were chosen as a leader, I had to do my duty well. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t blame God, but would do my duty to the best of my ability. Once I set my motives straight regarding the election, to my surprise, I was chosen to serve as a leader. Seeing this outcome, I didn’t revel in it like I had in the past, thinking I was better than the others, but I felt it was my commission and responsibility, and I should focus on pursuing the truth and doing my duty well so I could be worthy of God’s love and salvation.
Over that time, nearly three years, God’s judgment and chastisement have clearly shown me the harm that name and status do to me, and I’ve become determined to pursue the truth. Even though at times I still reveal that same corrupt disposition, I’m able to consciously pray to God, focus on practicing the truth, and do my duty well. I’m no longer constrained by my satanic, corrupt disposition. When I let go of name and status, I felt that that wasn’t all I’d let go of, but that I’d also let go of the heavy fetters Satan had bound me with. I feel so relaxed and free.